Watervliet superintendent and student headline regional education forum
March 2, 2015
Watervliet Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lori Caplan and Watervliet High School senior Theresa DeChiaro addressed an overflow crowd at Colonie Central High School on Thursday, Feb. 26, calling on Gov. Cuomo to stop playing politics and do what is best for New York’s students by fixing the state’s broken school funding system.
“Everyone knows our story. Watervliet is the number 1 fiscally strapped school district in the Capital Region and among the most fiscally stressed in New York according to the Comptroller’s report, yet our district received the lowest percentage of state aid in all of Albany County this year,” said Dr. Caplan. “Our’s is not a spending issue, we have a revenue problem. We are not asking for a handout or someone else’s ‘piece of the pie,’ we just want equitable, adequate and sustainable education state funding.”
Dr. Caplan and Theresa DeChiaro, a Watervliet High School Student Council Co-President, were among a dozen administrators, educators and students who spoke at the regional educational forum, "SAVE OUR SCHOOLS: Quality Opportunities for Public School Children." (pdf)
Approximately 1,000 stakeholders from dozens of area school districts crowded Colonie High School’s auditorium for what has become an annual regional call to action on the fiscal and educational crisis that public schools face. The event featured the voices of these groups describing how political decisions are affecting programs and opportunities that are important to them and their communities.
The three main themes discussed with 10 New York State legislators, who listened attentively on stage for more than two hours, were:
Discontinuing the Gap Elimination Adjustment now and increasing foundation aid for school districts
Maintaining local control of public schools and allowing educational professionals to make critical policy decisions
Sharing information in regard to appropriate testing designed to evaluate and support student growth
The Watervliet administrator and student took aim at the state’s continued practice of inequitable and insufficient school aid distribution that most often leaves small city school districts and rural school districts struggling to provide the same high quality education and learning opportunities for students as those available in higher wealth, low needs districts.
Theresa DeChiaro spoke about the lost opportunities she has witnessed in recent years as a high school student in a high needs, small city school.
“Because of funding cuts, we have fewer teachers, so class sizes have grown. In many of my classes there are over 30 students. Some don’t even have desks to sit at that is how crowded the rooms are,” she said. “In seventh and eighth grade I took Russian as a language. Our school doesn’t offer it anymore. When my older brothers attended Watervliet High school, they took AP [Advanced Placement] classes that helped prepare them for college. I don’t have those same opportunities and I’m concerned that students after my class graduates, will have even less.”
Dr. Caplan concluded, “I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until the Governor listens. Our students’ education should not be dictated by their zip code.”